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5 Best Apps to Work on Speech and Language at Home

  1. My PlayHome by PlayHome Software LtdBlog-Speech-Apps-Main-Landscape
    • A digital doll house that lets your child use everything inside. You can fry an egg, feed the family pizza, pour drinks, feed the pets, and more! This app does not specifically target speech
      and language skills; however, there are many ways it can be used to work on speech/language at home. While playing with the doll house, you can work with your child on pronouns, identifying actions (e.g., cooking, sitting), present progressive –ing (e.g., drinking), plurals (e.g., two apples), vocabulary (around the house), formulating complete sentences, etc. I also like to use this app as a motivating activity for children working on speech sounds. For example, I will say, “Tell me what the doll is doing with your good ‘r’ sounds.” There is also My PlayHome Hospital, My PlayHome School, and My PlayHome Stores.
  2. Articulation Station by Little Bee Speech
    • This app is fantastic for children working on speech production skills. The whole app is pricey, but beneficial for a child working on more than one speech sound. It is also possible to download individual speech sounds to target a specific sound at home. This app is motivating and excellent for home practice!
  3. Following Directions by Speecharoo Apps
    • Excellent app for working on following directions. Choose from simple 1-step directions, 2-step directions, or more advanced 3-step directions. These funny directions will have your child laughing and wanting to practice more.
  4. Peek-A-Boo Barn by Night & Day Studios, Inc.
    • My favorite app for toddlers working on expressive language skills. First, the barn shakes and an animal makes a noise. Have your child say “open” or “open door” before pressing on the door. You can also have your child guess which animal it is or imitate the animal noises. When the animal appears, have your child imitate the name of the animal.
  5. Open-Ended Articulation by Erik X. Raj
    • This app contains over 500 open-ended questions to use with a child having difficulty producing the following speech sounds: s, z, r, l, s/r/l blends, “sh”, “ch”, and “th”. It is great for working on speech sounds in conversation. Have your child read aloud the question and take turns answering. The open-ended questions are about silly scenarios that will facilitate interesting conversations.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Best Apps to Reinforce Occupational Therapy Concepts

Within our day and age, technology can be used in many ways to facilitate daily functional skills. In regards to occupational therapy, there are many apps that can be used to facilitate and reinforce occupational therapy concepts at home with your child. The following apps are great for facilitating listening skills, transitions, attending to tasks, self-regulation, body awareness and handwriting skills. Blog-Occupational-Therapy-Concepts-Main-Portrait

These apps are easy to use and can be used anywhere and at any time to reinforce occupational therapy concepts:

Metronome App

  • Importance and benefits of using a metronome:
    • Help develop and improve rhythm
    • Improves listening skills
    • Facilitates the ability to attend over an extended period of time.
  • Population:
    • Any child with difficulties following directions, attention, and rhythm.

ASD Tools

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Helps with transitioning from one activity to another, attending to specific tasks, as well as, following directions.
  • Features:
    • Visual schedule
    • First-then visual
    • Timer with a visual
    • Reward system
  • Population:

Brainworks

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great and easy way to develop activities for a sensory diet.
  • Features:
    • Organizes all the activities into what would be best for your child.
    • Provides 130 sensory activities with pictures and descriptions.
    • Provides activities that can be completed at home, school, in the community, or at a table or desk.
    • Allows you to choose whether your child is feeling “just right, slow and sluggish, fast and stressed, or fast and hyper”- a list of sensory activities will be provided based on how the child is feeling.
  • Population:

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app that allows children to practice handwriting.
    • Provides multisensory ways to practice correct letter formation.
  • Features:
    • Capital/lower case letters, and numbers on a chalkboard with double lines.
    • Has a left-handed setting.
    • Reports errors for extra guidance.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children with poor handwriting skills including letter formation and sizing.

Zones of Regulation App

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app for developing self-regulation strategies.
    • Helps children develop skills to assist in regulating their bodies, emotions, and behaviors.
    • Helps children acknowledge how they feel and acquire the skills to create strategies to cope with their emotions.
  • Features:
    • Mini games to help facilitate learning the zones of regulation and develop strategies to facilitate emotional control and self-regulation.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children who have difficulty with emotional control and self-regulation.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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5 things you didn't know about how your baby learns language

5 Things You Didn’t Know About How Your Baby Learns Language

Has your child ever surprised you with his knowledge and actions, or used a word that you thought he had never heard before? Have you ever thought, ‘My child is a genius’? If so, I have to agree that children and the way that they develop language skills is quite impressive!

Here are 5 things you didn’t know about how your baby learnslanguage development language:

  1. Babies cannot learn language from iPads and TV. Although there are many apps available that target language skills, they do not replace human interaction. Patricia Kuhl and her research team concluded that language learning takes place in a social context (interaction with a person!) (Roehrich, 2013). Their research has shown that American babies exposed to non-native sounds (sounds not in their primary language) in a face-to-face context were able to learn to distinguish these sounds from their native sounds. However, when presented with the non-native sounds via audiovisual and audio recordings only, they were not able to distinguish between the two.
  2. Motherese works. Motherese (also known as baby talk or infant directed speech) is spoken by mothers around the world. Is there a purpose to this talk? The answer is yes! Motherese helps babies to learn the sounds, patterns, and intonation of their language. The prosody of motherese is thought to facilitate processing in domains such as word segmentation (Thiessen, Hill, & Saffran, 2005) and word learning (Graf-Estes, 2008).
  3. Babies start learning language in the womb. Believe it or not, the number of neurons (nerve cells) in our brains peaks before we are even born!  Babies have a critical period for learning sounds in their native language, and this critical period occurs before your child turns 1 year old. This period begins when your baby first develops the ability to hear (around 16 weeks after conception). Before this critical period, babies are able to discriminate between any sounds in any language. At approximately the age of 8-10 months, babies are pruning connections in their brain and fine-tuning the connections that are used most frequently. This is why, after the critical period, your baby no longer has the ability to discriminate sounds in native and non-native languages. When your baby is 6 months old, they have an ability that you as an adult do not have! (Roehrich, 2013)
  4. Babies communicate via eye gaze. Have you ever wondered how your baby communicates without using words (or cries?) The answer is eye gaze! Eye gaze is one of the first ways that a baby and their mother connect socially. Babies show preference for items and people by demonstrating longer eye gaze towards a person or object. When they are a little older, babies also use joint attention and gestures to communicate. This is demonstrated by the baby looking at a preferred object, then making eye contact with their communication partner, and then back to the preferred object again, attempting to draw the adult’s attention to their preferred object.
  5. Toddlers fast-map. During the second year of life, toddlers learn and retain new words after minimal exposure to the word and its use. This enables them to expand their receptive and expressive vocabularies at a rapid rate.

Watch this TED Talk that provides additional information about how babies learn language. If you are concerned with your child’s language skills, consult a speech and language pathologist!

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!  

References: 

 

the best handwriting apps

Handwriting: There’s An App For That!

In this day and age, there really is an app for everything! So why not use technology for educational purposes, especially for the fine motor skill of handwriting? Believe it or not, handwriting development begins as early as 12 months of age, as your child begins to first scribble with markers or crayons. Further development of handwriting occurs with an emphasis on fine motor control and precision, along with the development of a functional pencil grasp. With advances in technology, there are now fun, interactive methods to promote handwriting skills.  The letters are presented to children with various colors, sounds, animals, and even rewards. Remember, apps are a great supplement to handwriting, but be sure to keep using a multi-sensory approach. Read on for four current Handwriting apps used by your occupational therapist.

 Occupational Therapist Approved Handwriting Apps:the best handwriting apps

Ready to Print

$7.99 google play store

$9.99 iTunes store

A fine motor app created by an OT. The app assists in the development of fine motor skills, including fine motor precision, visual motor tracking skills, visual-perceptual skills and fine motor skills. The app progresses through activities that develop handwriting, including tracing, drawing paths, developing pinch, matching connecting dots, and ultimately writing upper and lower case letters! A great app for building skills that lead to handwriting.

Writing Wizard

Free demo google play store

$4.99 iTunes store

A colorful, customizable letter tracing app! The app provides children with a multisensory approach, using colors and sound effects throughout the tasks. It also provides your child with a reward system for completing each letter. The app itself also allows for extended customization, allowing you to enter words or even names for your child to trace.

Touch and Write

$2.99 iTunes store

Help the monster eat his cupcakes! The tracing app provides your child develop letter formation skills by controlling his fine motor movements. The app asks that your child stay within the boundaries of the guided path, moving the monster with their finger to collect the cupcakes along the correct path. Trace upper and lower case letter in consecutive order, numbers, and words.

 

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers, and Lowercase

$6.99 iTunes store

The well-known academic writing protocol became an app. The app follows HWT structure, teaching your child to start his letters at the top and write them fluidly. You can follow the app through the traditional sequence of letters in the HWT program in which letters are taught by similarity in formation, or complete letter learning in sequential order. This is a great app if your child is already learning the program and would like more practice or for a new writer having a little bit of difficulty.

Want to read about more handwriting apps? Click here! Are you concerned about your child’s handwriting? Schedule a consultation with one of our occupational therapists.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today! 

 

Can Technology Replace Therapy?

With the changes in science and technology, there has been major changes and adaptations with pediatric therapy.  There are many applications available that provide therapists and children with technological support.  These applications can be found on a variety of sources such as, but not limited to, the iPad, Kinect, Wii, Kindle, etc.  There has been much support for such technology as evident by a New York Times article on on physical therapists using Wii Golf to help enhance the benefits of the therapy.

Now the question that should be asked is why bother with therapy when a parent can spend a lot less money and time by buying applications and video games?

The applications must be considered only one aspect of developmental therapy. They are tools that help with the therapy; however, by no means supplement the benefits of the therapy itself.  Developmental therapists have specific training on developmental therapy and how to help children develop to their potential at the quickest and most efficient manner possible.

So although there have been major breakthroughs with technology and software; I will never foresee a time in which the technology will replace the therapist.

Our 10 Favorite Speech and Language Apps for Kids

Apps can be a great way for kids to practice a variety of skills.  Read on for information on our top 10 choices for speech and language apps for children!

App Name

Focus

Age Group

Description

Purchase/Download Info

Peek-a-Boo Barn Lite
  • Spatial concepts (in, on, under, next to)
  • Animal sounds
  • Vocabulary (animals names, open/shut, barn)
  • Turn-taking
  • WH questions (what, where)
0-3 Listen to animal noises, then push barn doors to reveal the farm animal inside. Available in 10 languages. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (full version, $1.99). $2.99 on Android

 

Toca Boca Kitchen Monsters
  • Verbs
  • Labeling (foods)
  • Language expansion (practice 2+ word phrases)
  • WH questions
  • Following directions
  • Environmental sounds
2-6 Choose and prepare various foods before feeding them to a Toca monster. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
TallyTots
  • Verbs
  • Two-word combinations
  • Counting
  • Concepts (i.e. matching, size (big/little, on/off)
  • Following directions
2-6 Involves counting 1-20. Each number coordinates with an activity that illustrates language concepts $2.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad and  KindleFire/Android
Speech Tutor
  • Articulation
  • Visual cues (what mouth, lips, tongue, etc. are doing) for production
  • Tips for producing the sound
  • Other information about a selected sound
All Ages Watch a virtual mouth as it produces selected sounds. This application also provides tips for producing the sound and age for when we expect mastery of each sound. Free on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
My PlayHome Lite
  • Vocabulary (around the house)
  • Actions
  • Pronouns
  • Following directions
2-6 Manipulate people and things inside an interactive home (i.e. make Mom drink water, put Dad behind the couch, make the boy jump on a chair). Free on iTunes for iPad (full version, $3.99). $2.99 on Android
Articulation Station
  • Articulation
  • Matching
  • Labeling
All ages Speech sounds in words, sentences and stories in all positions of words (i.e. initial, medial and final). Choose from flashcards or matching games. Easy to keep track of accuracy and progress. Free to download on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (additional sounds $2.99 each).
iSequence
  • Sequencing
  • Expressive language (grammar, syntax)
  • Vocabulary
5-7 Put 3-4 picture sequences in the correct order. Includes 100 sequences. $2.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad
Blue Whale- NACD
  • Apraxia and articulation (CVC productions only)
1+ Imitate consonant-vowel-consonant (“CVC”) productions. 8 levels of complexity included. $4.99 on iTunes for iPad. Also available for $4.99 for Kindle, Android tablets and Nook.
Describe It to Me
  • Word-finding
  • Categories
  • Salient features
  • Object function
  • Parts
  • Location
5+ Complements EET program (Expanding Expression Tool). App can be used both expressively (e.g. to generate ideas), or receptively (e.g.  correctly select or point to various objects’ categories, function, parts). Customize  vocabulary given child’s needs, as well as skills targeted (categories, parts, etc). $9.99 on iTunes for iPad (free sample on iTunes).
Full Social Skills Builder
  • Understanding emotions
  • Perspective taking
  • Identifying appropriate responses (making comments, asking for information)
5-12 Videos are organized according to age group (school age, adolescent). Watch videos in different environments (school, community). Child answers 3-5 multiple choice questions following video. $14.99 on iTunes for iPhone/iPad (free sample on iTunes).

Click Here to View our Speech and Language Infographic!

*Co-written by Caitlin Brady

Smartphone Technology and Language Development: Pros and Cons

iPads, iPhones and apps.  Today’s buzz is all about Smartphone technology and what “apps” will benefit development and academic skills in children.  Parents frequently request recommended apps to best address their child’s speech and language skills.  After all, we want to take advantage of the latest learning tools and most cutting edge technology to help our kids succeed.  However, use of Smartphone technology should be approached with caution.  Like all good things, moderation is key.

Here are a few important points to consider before integrating Smartphone children on phonestechnology into your child’s daily routine:

Pros: What are the positive benefits of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps provide excellent “drill” style activities to teach specific skill sets, such as vocabulary building, phonologic awareness, articulation skills, and learning new concepts.
  • Devices such as tablets, Smartphones and iPads expose children to modern day technology, improving their computer literacy and ability to navigate such tools.
  • Smartphone apps provide a fun and entertaining activity for children. This can be excellent choice for breaks from homework, rewards or car-rides.

Cons: What are the negative effects of Smartphone technology?

  • Smartphone apps promote passive learning and provide little opportunity for creativity, social interaction, problem-solving, sustained attention, ideation, and make-believe. All of these skills are foundational to development in children by promoting motor skills, language learning, problem-solving, and social skills.
  • While Smartphone apps may encourage children to talk or practice sounds, they do not encourage children talk to an actual person. Language is a reciprocal social system, intended for communication between people. It’s critical that children learn to communicate with others in a reciprocal context.
  • Smartphone apps do not promote the use of novel language.  A critical part of language development includes the ability to arrange words into combinations, building sentences to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
  • Smartphone applications offer little opportunity to learn social skills. Social skills include interpreting nonverbal cues, making eye-contact, initiating conversation, and responding to others.
  • When it comes to learning, practicing skills in context is critical. So even though Smartphones might teach children new skills, they do not offer opportunities for children to generalize these skills in a real-life context.

So what can parents do?

Here are a few practical steps as families navigate their child’s use of tablets, Smartphones and iPads:

  • Think moderation. Limit your child’s use of electronics, and set boundaries ahead of time so your child knows what to expect.
  • Encourage activities that encourage creativity, social interaction, problem solving, sustaining attention, ideation, and make-believe. A few good choices include blocks, dress-up, play-doh, books, pretend food, and baby dolls.
  • Spend face-to-face time with your child every day. Encourage your child to participate in play with you and encourage their use of their language, facial expressions, eye-contact, and engagement.

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Speech-Language Apps Continued

This past summer, North Shore Pediatric Therapy launched its first technology room in the Highland Park clinic! Our tech room is fully equipped with Kinect + Xbox 360, two iPads, and a number of games and apps. With the tech room up and running, I have discovered a number of new iPad apps that my kiddos can’t get enough of! Feel free to contact us if you would like to tour the tech room!

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**How to use My Choice Board [more technical]:

Open My Choice Board and click Start. Click Add Board to start a new choice board. Type in what you want to name the board. Click Save. Click Edit Choices. Select the board you are working on from the list. Click the green plus sign. Click Pick Image on the bottom left screen. There are three image sources: Device Image Library, Google Images, or Camera. Click Caption. Type a very short caption or else there will be a partial caption followed by “…” Click Record Voice. Press the red circle to start recording and the blue square to stop recording. Use the voice recording feature to compensate for the caption length limitations. Click Save.

I’m always looking for fun, new apps to use in my therapy sessions and apps that parents can use at home to promote speech-language development. If you have any must-have apps, please leave a comment below with the app name!

For more app reviews, please visit my previous blogs:

  1. iPhone and iPad apps to Promote Reading and Language Development
  2. Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development
  3. Facebook, Twitter, Texting: Are They Bad For Language Development?
  4. Speech and Language Apps From Duck Duck Moose